Monday, October 17, 2016

Worst Election Ever

(Credit: Clinton image from The Huffington Post; Trump image from, taken from
One inspiring thing can be said about the 2016 presidential election as it currently stands: we have the first female major party nominee, and she looks increasingly likely to win. That is a significant thing without a doubt, given that only a century ago, women weren't even guaranteed the right to vote. Indeed, it would be great to see an article, particularly after Hillary Clinton gets elected (should she), that details the work that was done to take us from a country where women couldn't even vote, to one where a woman can get elected president.

But Hillary Clinton's nomination, and even her hypothetical election, are largely symbolic victories, for reasons I've detailed before. And once those symbolic victories are scraped away, we're left with something exceptionally bleak. Perhaps it isn't the worst presidential election in American history--we have had some pretty grim ones, and thankfully neither candidate in this election is openly championing the expansion of slavery, unlike in past elections--but it is the worst in a good while, that much is sure.

Andrew O'Hehir of Salon aptly compared our choice to the 2002 French presidential election, when the final round of voting pitted conservative president Jacques Chirac against ultranationalist anti-Semite xenophobe Jean-Marie Le Pen (whose somewhat less extreme, but far from benevolent, daughter is a major player in French politics today). The difference there was that the French people only had to suffer through two weeks knowing those two were their only options, while we've been stuck with the grim choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump staring us in the face for months. The French also had the good sense to give Le Pen a mere 18% of the final vote, while our own far-right ultranationalist is sure to do far better than that in spite of everything that's happened. And Chirac had the foresight to oppose the Iraq War, which is more than you can say for Clinton, for that matter.

Just like in that election, we had a socialist candidate who should have made it to the final round of voting, but didn't, through flaws in the system--though the flaws in our system are far more intentionally built in than the ones that led to the ugly situation in France. Bernie Sanders was scandal-free, hadn't dirtied his hands by supporting the Iraq War or the PATRIOT Act, and represented a serious vision for progressive change, unlike Clinton. He was also the candidate the people wanted--his favorability was far better than hers, and he did better in head-to-head matchups against the Republicans. But the Democratic Party elites aren't ones to let something like democracy get in the way of what they want. They learned their lesson after George McGovern got the nomination in '72. They pulled every string they could to give Hillary the nomination, going so far that when their misdeeds came to light the DNC chair, soulless lizard Debbie Wasserman Schultz, had to resign in disgrace.

Sanders's campaign marked a high point in this election season, mobilizing young voters in a way that we can only hope continues on now that his candidacy is over. But that's over now, and we're faced with two of the least popular candidates in presidential election history. It's a cruel joke of a choice, given that there's no one to be excited about, and yet apathy could be disastrous give what's at stake. If Clinton is the lousiest the candidate the Democrats have had in maybe decades, Trump is the worst either party's come up with since the end of World War II.

Whatever faithful readers I have may know that I tried to put a more positive spin on the Trump campaign earlier this year, despite always finding him a disgusting human being and never supporting his bid for president. But it's obvious now that Trump is a con man, and I fell for at least some of his con. I thought some part of what he really represented was decent, even an improvement over what we've seen. But Trump stands for nothing aside from a lust for respect and power, and a hatred of anyone who's different than he is.

I have to admit that even after I began to see how truly dangerous and toxic he was, I still found Donald Trump's candidacy funny. I don't mean that I didn't see, and take seriously, the real damage it's done already, but the idea of an orange-skinned, crude, billionaire reality TV host as a serious contender for president was too goddam ridiculous not to laugh at. Trump's candidacy is something like when Abbie Hoffman's Yippies nominated Pigasus the pig for president in the '60s, and not just because in both cases the nominee is a swine.

But whatever humor there was has worn off now. Maybe it's the creepy, awful remarks he made in 2005 that just came out, maybe it was his petulant, infantile performance at the second debate. Trump's absurdity hasn't gone away, but it doesn't inspire laughter, even of the desperate, vaguely horrified kind it used to. It now strikes me as downright offensive that I have to take this idiot, whose candidacy still strikes me as a joke that went too far and has gone sour now, seriously. And it's downright infuriating that millions of people are willingly taking seriously the idea of a useless blowhard like Donald Trump being president.

Anton LaVey once said that "[i]t's too bad stupidity isn't painful." If it were, supporting Trump would be a searing agony, somewhere between pressing a red-hot poker to your flesh and amputating your own foot with a chainsaw. Donald Trump's supporters are misogynists, xenophobes, Islamophobes, racists, Nazis, and Klansmen. And some, I assume, are good people. As hard as I am on political figures, I try to avoid being too vicious to everyday people whose politics I dislike. But supporting Trump at this point is indefensible, if not morally, then just rationally.

Trump is the sort of candidate who shouldn't just lose, but should be ostracized like they used to do in Athens. Best that he be ostracized by the entire human race, sent away from Earth with a one-way ticket some desert wasteland planet that he can name after himself and rule over as king, just to appease his monstrous ego. Comparisons to Hitler are cliched in general and Trump has seen plenty, but they're all too appropriate in his case.

Given the sick monster that the Republicans nominated, I would love it if I could make my peace with the Democrat, as I did four years ago when I enthusiastically supported Obama as a way to keep Romney out of the White House, despite my serious misgivings about his views. But the memory of Clinton's smears on Sanders in the primary are too fresh, and she hasn't made it any easier to support her with her attempts to link Trump and Putin, which are based on little real evidence and harken back to the dark days of Joseph McCarthy warning about his opponents' loyalty to the Soviet Union. The Russia attack is also just a sly of further demonizing Putin, whom Clinton has already ludicrously compared to Hitler. Russia is our Foreign Enemy, and they have no respect for Our Democracy--be afraid. The best thing I can say about Clinton at this point is that she's exercised the minimal competence necessary to keep her ship afloat while the USS Trump has torpedoed itself, which it looks increasingly likely will be enough to win her the election.

In the last debate we got the pleasure of hearing Clinton defend her duplicity by referencing Abraham Lincoln, followed by Trump assuring her that she's no Lincoln. Lincoln's mummified corpse, meanwhile, laid in repose, as dead as the hopes that our next president could represent any salvation from the political hell this country has been condemned to. Yes, that is the worst thing about this election, and the reason I don't take too much solace in the thought that it will be over soon. We will have to live with the decision we make for the next four years. A Trump presidency would be a horrible disaster. Pence would probably make many of the decisions, which is bad enough,
but Trump's desire to silence his opponents and the toxicity of his bigoted statements should not be underestimated. A Clinton presidency looks to be four more years of Obama, minus the good bits--the Iran deal, the thaw in relations with Cuba. Considering how hard it was to get Obamacare passed when the Democrats held sixty seats in the Senate, Clinton's plans for healthcare and student debt, not too bold to begin with, don't have great odds of amounting to anything earth-shattering.

So here we are, then, in a presidential election where both candidates are worse than the current president, which I say as someone who's found plenty to dislike about Obama's policies. This is the first election in a long time that I could confidently say that about, and certainly the first I've lived through. I hope it's the last, but it's hard to know what to expect from American politics at this point. Better luck in four years, I guess. Until then, brace for the worst.